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Is it wrong that I avoid buying books?

A topic came up in another community that I wanted to ask here...

If you make love to read, and make a reasonable amount of money, is it morally wrong to just check out most of your books at the public library?

The reason it came up was mostly that I feel like I'm a good person because I use the public library a lot. I'm adding to the numbers of people using it, which I think helps justify it as a taxpayer expense, which helps poor kids who do not have a ton of books still get stuff to read.

Someone else saw it differently: said that I'm neglecting to support the authors whose books I'm enjoying so much.

Just to get it all out there, here are the reasons I prefer to check out books at the public library:

1) I've found that I'm MUCH more likely to read a book if it's got a "due date" associated with it. I bought way too many books that just sat on my nightstand before I vowed to use my local public library... but when I've only got 14 days with a book, I get on it.
2) I'm tired of my house being full of stuff, hate storing and moving books.
3) Printing a book out for every person who wants to read it seems ecologically irresponsible to me.
4) I'm cheap. Well and let's face it, I haven't exactly won the lottery lately, we're on a pretty tight budget. But I make more money than the average american and could set more aside for books if I chose to.
5) I just like the idea of books being shared... I even helped build a Little Free Library on my street where we just leave books out in the freaking yard. I want people from all walks of life to be able to access books all the time, and if the only way anyone reads is by using a credit card at barnes & noble then reading just won't be that accessible anymore.

I realize that an e-reader would take care #2, and part of #3 (less paper, but something else to manufacture and keep a battery charged for, boo).

And it's not like I *never* buy books... hell, there's even books that I read at the library, and realized "this is so good I must own it" or "I know someone who must have this as a gift" and that's how it goes. But what brought this up was actually a book I'd checked out for my 3-year-old daughter, she's gone nuts over it, practically memorized it from having it read to her daily for the last month, we've already renewed it once and I'm wondering whether to just buy it for her, or head back to the library to find an equally amazing book of which I know there are many (the kid already owns waaaay too many books, despite my "don't buy" philosophy).

I do want authors to get paid. I like to think that by supporting a library, a lot more books actually end up being purchased by a larger cross-section of authors. But I know when you buy a new best seller from a publisher, a lot of that money goes for them to pay the lesser-known authors too.

Maybe I should make an annual effort to buy a book or two and donate it to the library in my yard, or find some other charitable way to support authors in general, because I don't think there's anything anyone can tell me that will make me totally stop checking out library books. I'm addicted to it. But I am realizing that not everyone sees the library as a "yay for sharing!" thing and am wondering what the spectrum of viewpoints is on this issue.


( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 12th, 2013 06:31 pm (UTC)
I think libraries are great...then again I have a Masters in Library Science, so I might be biased here. I love that I can rent books and try them out. Also, most public libraries have an eBook program too, so I can read books on my phone (so much easier to read on my phone when the nursling is asleep, but attached than it is to read a paper book). That being said, we have a ton of books. When I like a book enough that I'll want to re-read it, I'll probably buy it. But I tend to check out Half-Priced/used stores first. There are some authors I buy new as soon as their books come out because I love them and I love their works.

If Josie loves the book so much, why not buy it for her. After she's done with it and after Olive is done with it, you can always sell it or donate it to the library. The Austin Library actually has a bookstore where they sell books that they've taken out of rotation or that have been donated but don't fit in with their stacks.
Aug. 12th, 2013 06:54 pm (UTC)
Libraries need support, and if you're reading "Hunger Games" or something it's not like the author needs your money.

But I try to purchase it if the book I want to read is something underfunded by society, like poetry. Or if I know the author.
Aug. 12th, 2013 07:37 pm (UTC)
I seldom buy books. By which I mean, probably five or fewer per year. Plus about as many again for my three year old. And two or three as gifts. And my husband buys at least a dozen, since he travels for work. Almost all of Daniel's books and about half of the rest will be used.

Hmmm... My Facebook feed was just telling me (no sources given) that 80% of American households buy NO books each year. So maybe I DO buy a lot of books. It is just orders of magnitude less than my library borrowing.</p>

And when I want a newly published book, my first recourse is generally a public library purchase suggestion. Because 1) I'm cheap, and 2) good books deserve to be shared.

When I do buy a book or CD (and I don't buy digital for this reason) for myself, I often donate to my library after I'm done.

Finally, one of my reasons for borrowing is the flipside of one of yours: there's a good chance I will fail to read ANY book that enters my house, bought or borrowed. Probably 1/2 of bought books and 1/4 of borrowed books get read. And it feels like less of a failure when I've borrowed. Unread bought books sit on my Read Me shelf and shame me for a year or so before I give them away. To the library.

Aug. 12th, 2013 07:47 pm (UTC)
I don't think so.

I don't use the library. Mostly because I am too disorganized to return things in a timely fashion and it irritates me that our library's fines are high enough that I very rapidly owe a lot of money.

I also homeschool my children and I've found that while I might have A Plan for what to teach, the really won't take to it until they have an interest. I really can't add the chore of recalling the cool title we borrowed six months ago, putting it on hold at the library, having it come to my local branch for pick up, etc. Generally this takes a week or so to happen and by then the moment is long, long past. Its much better for us to have books on the shelf to pull out.

Plus, thevast majority of what I buy is used anyway. I'm not paying the author at all.

I am pretty anti-stuff, but books are the exception (and certain craft supplies).

Edited at 2013-08-12 07:52 pm (UTC)
Aug. 12th, 2013 08:18 pm (UTC)
There are too many books in my house. If the house was somewhat smaller, the house would be a fire hazard. I brought a box of books to our local book store today. They bought three and donated the rest. I need to make more use of the library.
Aug. 12th, 2013 09:25 pm (UTC)
I live in the land of "buying books" thanks to being a student moving into a professional career. So at the moment, I'm that person. And I will admit that I love the smell and feel of new books. However, I have considered getting back to the library system. So many books that are on my mental list are old books, so there should be no reason they aren't there. I think it's harder not to buy books if you are interested in something brand new. As for e-readers...well, I stare at my phone and computer enough that looking at something that doesn't glow is probably good for me ;)
Aug. 13th, 2013 12:41 am (UTC)
we are the same. If it's at the library, then why buy it? We do buy books when we go to India, well, because the same book is cheaper there. But usually we get authors/topics we wouldn't get here.

I remember seeing my dad having to give up a lot of his book collection every time we moved and since their final move back home he still has a ton of books. But they live in a mansion, we are in a 1 bedroom apartment! So, no space.

I don't buy eBooks. I just don't. Maybe if the books will become compatible over whatever device you ownt hen I might consider it, but more than likely I will buy the actual book if I like it that much!

I have begun to buy children's books though of lesser known authors. Most of the books I buy are used books at the library book sale & thrift store! But we generally start at the library first. I have had to put a limit on 2-3 books a year for her (buying new). And once D is done, I have donated it back to library.

We also freecycle! And we also live within two blocks of a library!! :)

Edited at 2013-08-13 12:42 am (UTC)
Aug. 13th, 2013 02:46 am (UTC)
I worked at the Salina Public Library in high school and I loved it. The pay was far better than anywhere else, with regular raises, holidays, and I think the full time staff had decent benefits. I worked with some really cool women who were strong and interesting (typical of a library work setting). So, I am very pro-library because I know what awesome jobs it offers the community, especially women, as well as the educational benefits. When I borrow, I'm always late returning, too, so they get my money like nobody else.

I do often buy books, because I read a lot of literature-type novels and poetry; if I'm reading popular fiction, I borrow. Generally, I like to buy from thrift shops or library sales (talk about deals) because I want "pretty" copies for my shelves, and those are the places to look. I know Salina's library had a "Friends of the Library" sale of donated books or books we were getting rid of, and I have so many beautiful copies of books from that. I also download a lot of the free books for Kindle (I have a Kindle app for my laptop) because it's a lot of the literature that I want to read anyway. All of this is primarily driven by a combo of cheapness, a love of "old" books with some history, and a nagging fear of a dystopian future where books are destroyed or outlawed to control the masses due to early exposure to Orwell and Bradbury.
Aug. 13th, 2013 05:26 am (UTC)
There are two main reasons why I buy books instead of getting them at the library, and that's when either I can't, or I expect I'll read them over and over and over and when I want to reread them, I'll want them right now rather than waiting for a trip to the library.

Which means in the last 8 years, I've bought an awful lot of English-language fiction, because universities libraries in Germany and the Netherlands don't generally carry that (I did get the complete works of Jane Austen and the Brontë sisters from the University of Amsterdam library, but that seemed to be more a fluke than anything else). I haven't yet gotten to the public library in Heidelberg to see what they have in terms of English-language books.
Aug. 14th, 2013 12:34 am (UTC)
I think you would really love a Kindle, for the record.

I borrow tons of library books per year and at the same time probably spend way more on books per year than average. I definitely don't feel guilty over it.
Aug. 14th, 2013 03:25 am (UTC)
Ditto on reasons 1-4, plus, in a version of your #5, using the library makes me feel like a part of the community. : )

I will say this though, when I was buying books I was spending more money on books (though still not a ton $30-$60 per year) and reading WAY less. (Because that $30-$60 might only be 2-3 books).

I will buy/request books that I LOVED and MUST OWN, but even then, I check used bookstores/library sales first...
Aug. 14th, 2013 03:26 am (UTC)
Oh and I have a Kindle. And on it I read borrowed library books and stuff that is in the public domain. So...yea.
Aug. 14th, 2013 08:16 pm (UTC)
If you want to donate to support authors in particular, there are several short-story podcasts and online magazines which release stories for free and are run primarily or entirely on donations. Off the top of my head, there's the escape artists podcasts (podcastle, pseudopod, escapepod), strange horizons, beneath ceaseless skies, all of those pay their authors from donations. There are prizes and competitions which focus on writing by women, or by minorities, and I'm sure some of them take donations. There's also Con or Bust, which operates to get fans of colour to genre conventions, which is run on donations. Or there are things which indirectly support writers and writing, like NaNoWriMo. I try to donate to them every year, because the service they offer is so valuable to so many people.
Aug. 17th, 2013 06:44 am (UTC)
I was a heavy library user when I lived in Wichita and worked downtown. I haven't even set up a library card in Omaha, and I've been here a year and a half. I still buy books, say two a month (all of my reading is done when it's either too hot or too cold to go play outside), but everything is digital now. If the public library had a better system for e-readers, I'd likely go back to borrowing as well as buying.
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )

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